Consumer Insights · Media Strategy · Brand Planning | Los Angeles, CA

Google Reader and the Inconvenient Truth of The Cloud

As far as broad-based adoption as a go-to technology, RSS’ time has come and gone without much of a stir. The idea of pulling in a customized stream of web content never became a thing on the web, in the same way that user-generated videos or check-in services or any of a number of other things have, over the years. I’m not terribly surprised.

After all, RSS’ greatest strength is in pulling in a vast swath of reading material, and that’s not what the vast majority of people want out of the internet. Twitter will alert you to any major breaking news. Somebody on your friends list will post up the videos that are worth seeing. You can remember to check The Onion yourself, every day or two, if that’s something that interests you. In short, the social web performs much the same function, with the value of pre-screening. But that isn’t sufficient for everybody. 

If I’m online, there’s a pretty good chance I’m reading, and the only thing that can keep up with the hundreds of sources I follow is RSS. From national news to the LA scene to advertising, to music to 10 other categories, RSS has been my lifeline for years. It helps me do my job, but I’d be reading most of these things for free anyway. And for years, the best RSS news reader has been brought to us by the maker of many of the best web services, Google. 

My Google Reader Feed

Google News has been eulogized at length, so I won’t bother to wax too poetic about its impending loss next week. But by deciding to pull the plug, Google has left a legitimate hole in the internet, that, as yet, no one is qualified to fill. Case in point, Feedly just failed to sync about 50 articles I saved on my iPad, the result of a couple of hours of reading that are now lost. Urgh. But so goes life in the world of the cloud.

Every time Google does something new, it stokes new concerns about what they plan to do with the gobs of data users willingly spoonfeed them. The recent PRISM scare has only brought that into sharper focus. Ignoring the bogeymen of BIG DATA and the black helicopters for a moment, however, the unilateral decision to pull the plug on the best tool for news reading shows just how much power cloud service providers have over our day-to-day internet lives now. Whether Reader wasn’t getting enough usage, or was simply too great a distraction from their god-awful Google+ platform, Google has made a choice and we’re all forced to live with the consequences. 

And yeah yeah yeah, we’re talking about a free service, but that distinction is really immaterial. No cloud service guarantees usage in perpetuity…how could it? With software platforms like Adobe Creative Suite going online, we’re potentially talking about people’s livelihoods, not just their iTunes libraries. 

I’m not saying anything terribly new about the shift of ownership and power the rise of the cloud has created, but this is the first time it’s impacting me personally. And man, is it inconvenient.

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